Susan Dearing: Joel Munoz and Helen Kuhn have
a new idea for a relaxing vacation. Have fun, feel safe and let them do
all the work. Ride in a beautiful 25 ft. motor
home with two personal, knowledgeable guides. Leave the driving
through Mexico to them, but be free to ask for a photo stop, have a snack,
make a drink.
On their Pacific Mexico
route, you'll be able to enjoy the scenery and not have the responsibility
of driving. You'll have a Spanish-speaking guide to take care of your
every need, won't have to pull over to take bathroom breaks, and will be
able to make all the enjoyable decisions of where you want to eat and what
you want to do once you reach your destination.
Please read and enjoy, as I
did, Joel and Helen's account of their last sojourn into Mexico in 2009. I
highly recommend their trip as an exciting, secure way to explore areas of
Mexico you've never seen. After doing a lightly structured trip, you can
take note of the towns you most enjoyed, and put them on your list of
places to visit for a longer time on your next vacation. Or maybe you'll
want to try another one of Buena
Vida Adventures cool expeditions!
Please click on photos to enlarge
We had been hearing for months of the beheadings, kidnappings and shoot outs by drug traffickers
throughout Mexico. Friends and family warned us
that we would not come back alive, or at the very least, we'd come back missing a limb or
two if we
continued with our plans to explore Mexico. But Helen and I aren’t ones
to listen. Just ask our family and friends! So we packed up the truck and headed
out for the 7-hour drive to Nogales.
too keen on the border area after hearing of all the violence, so we ate at a Denny’s, and holed up in the luxurious Motel 6. An
interesting note is that at $69.99, this was one of the pricier rooms we had on
our whole trip. We were up at the next morning to cross the
border while all the drug lords were asleep. We got our car permit about 20 km
from Nogalesin world-record time and made Los Mochisat about
We arrived in Los
The train started out at about 15-20 mph and
we thought perhaps it was warming up before the speed increased and the
mountains started. That was not the case. It really went that speed the entire
way. It was a solid 10-hour ride to Creel but the train was nice and
comfortable with a dining and bar cart. We thought we’d have spectacular views
but this really is not the
case (although you do have some spectacular views of other canyons). You really
need to stay overnight in one of the towns along the way to see and explore the
canyon. Otherwise, you're just on a long, slow train ride.
We got off the train in Creel, Chihuahua. Helen and I were really
pleasantly surprised by Creel. You're over 6,000 feet high amongst towering, resplendent
trees. Creel sits at the edge of the main part of CopperCanyonand is a quaint little town.
We were downright chilly at night in April and it gets considerable snow here in
the winter. We only had one full day and two nights here, so we just got a taste
of what there is to do. We rented a scooter and took it to the bottom of the
canyon. There are hot springs,
lakes and waterfalls to see, but our butts were so sore, we just wanted to
get back to town. The Raramuri, are fascinating--as they're living
today almost the way they have for 10,000 years. They are known to be
fanatical distance runners due to the necessity to run in and amongst the
huge canyons. A Raramuri placed very high in the Olympic
marathon a few years back.
to literally run to the train to catch it since we had a little time change
problem. Seems when George Bush changed daylight savings time in the United States, the rest of the world didn't
follow. Not knowing Mexicodaylight
savings time was happening the day we were to leave, we showed up an hour
Train in Creel
Old town Mazatlan,
with sidewalk cafes and pedestrian walkways,
a quaint Colonial town with a stunning 19th century cathedral with twin
We took off from Los Mochisthe next morning
next destination, Sayulita. We stopped in Mazatlanso Helen could see it,
though I'd been there before. However, my earlier visits were during my college
days, and I was not impressed, due to the fact that I rarely made it out of the club district. I have to say
that I was pretty impressed with today's Mazatlan. We had lunch in the old town, next to the
(town square), and what a
beautiful colonial city! We had a great lunch and, after, went hiking up the
hill to the lighthouse, the second highest in the world. Muy hermosa!
We left Mazatlanand headed south another four
hours to Sayulita, about 30 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. We booked a private studio
apartment for $50 a night and got every penny's worth. We had a pool, patio,
BBQ, kitchenette, water, and a three block walk to town and the beach. We were
here during the busiest tourist week of the year in Mexico, the
Semana Santa, so it was crazy
busy. The break in front of the town is a pretty fun, soft long board wave
and there were a ton of guys out but everyone was pretty cool so we didn't have
any major flare ups.
Sayulita, a charming
fishing village and tourist town, popular with surfers. Surrounded by a
lush, tropical jungle, and on a beautiful beach with restaurants offering
zocalo was packed every night with festive locals and
we had a fantastic diversity of cuisine to pick from. Homemade
pastries from the local woman and ice cream from the back of trucks was the
order of the day. The next day we took a snorkel tour out to one of the islands
with a lady and her son that were staying in our apartment complex with us. We
saw some pretty cool schools of manta rays on the way out, although the
snorkeling was very rough when we finally got to the location. Most of our days were spent
relaxing and surfing. Sayulita was a great town, very quaint with some unique
shopping. In fact, this little town might have been Helen's favorite.
We packed up "La Familia" (we started calling my
truck this--which is Spanish for "The Family" half way through the trip
because we had my mom and my dad with us for two weeks) for the 5-hour
drive to Barra De Navidad or Christmas Bar. We stopped in the Mismaloya area of Puerto Vallartafor lunch and had the best fish of our entire trip. We
got into Barra De Navidad on the weekend at the end of Spring Break, and it
was CRAZY! I got some surfing in and Helen did a whole lot of relaxing. Our room
was literally on the sand. We occasionally had high winds due to a local
weather phenomena that happens that time of year. We were only here two days in this quaint little town but it was long enough for Helen
to kick my butt on a pool table, and take a nap at a table in a bar where we were
watching a band. She even forgot I bought her flowers. Some good deeds never go
Barra de Navidad
After Barra de Navidad, we climbed in La Familia and headed
to Zihuatanejo. This 8-hour drive was some awesome coastal driving with lunch in
a surreal beach stop along the way. Our hotel had the most beautiful bay view
with a vanishing edge pool and lots of areas to play cards, relax, and read. We
made daily trips to Troncones, driving on the beach to surf, play coconut
bowling, and have cervezas. We went through the smallest, poorest puebla(town) you could imagine, but they
had a kick-ass arcade for the kids. Go figure. Helen and I had a great
dinner way atop the bay one night, and dinner in the downtown area another
night. We had this great bay access path below our hotel that gave us a thirty
minute walk to town and made a great jogging path in the morning. I even gave
the surf a try right in front of our hotel in the bay, but it was way to close to
the rocks for me. But this little local nut on a surf board would ride waves right
into the rocks.
View from hotel at Zihuatanejo
Zihuatanejo, we got in the truck for a 4-hour drive to Acapulcoto pick up the parents. We
stayed in Acapulco for a couple of days and went
to see the cliff divers and the plaza/downtown area. This is my second time in Acapulco,
and I really don't have a need
to go back. Our hotel was fine, but Helen was a little under the weather with
what we started calling the "Acapoopoo's". My mom, on the other hand,
had a fantastic hotel. We picked them up and headed to Puerto Escondido.
We breezed through every military
checkpoint down the (highway) 200 with them in the back seat. It was a 5-hour drive to
Puerto Escondido that went pretty fast.
We checked in to this little hotel on
the beach with a pool and a crazy owner with a nutzo daughter. After doing the
three stooges room shuffle and checking out every room they had, we ended up
getting a great corner unit with ocean and pool views for $60 a night.
I did a
lot of surfing here and we got a family game of Scrabble going on the beach.
This is one of my favorite places with great surf and a very chill environment.
The beach is wide and very uncrowded. At night, the local musicians and
entertainers sing, play bongos or guitars, or juggle fire for tips only (although
the talent can be a little questionable). Puerto Escondido gets some of the
best surfers in the world when the summer swell hits and the waves can get
upwards of 20 feet.
The next stop was Huatulco. We drove the two hours south down
the coast, stopping near Zipolite for lunch after visiting a fantastic
turtle refuge. We all did the tour and were pretty amazed by the amount of
turtles and the exhibit in general. You would have never thought that out in the
middle of nowhere, you'd find this great exhibit. We booked a room in La
Crucecita, because, as it turns out, Huatulco isn't a city but a series of six
bays. Our room was HUGE although the whole place had a little too much pink
in it for my tastes. The first day we booked a snorkel/boat cruise to tour
all the bays and saw some spectacular coastline. Before we left the dock, I
bought us all some breakfast tacos this guy was selling out of the back of his
car. It turns out he is well known in town for his tasty “car” tacos. On
another day we took a day trip in our truck to the phenomenal isolated surf
spot, Barra de la Cruz. It's at least a minute-and-a-half right-hand break that,
once the wave is done, you have to get out of the water, walk ten minutes back
to the point, and paddle out again. The surf was pretty big that day. We had
some good eats there in Huatulcoas--well, enjoying the local Oaxacan cuisine.
We then crossed the isthmus over to the eastern side of Mexico. Our next stop was Palenque, the awesome Mayan ruins in
the heart of the Chiapasjungle. The state of Chiapasis still a hotbed of
revolutionary activity with recent demonstrations by the local rebel group, the
Zapatistas. We were here only one full day but what an awesome site the ruins
were! They are in great shape and we hired a local guide to take us back into
the jungle to look at the ruins that haven't been excavated. In fact, the area
is so enormous that they don't have the manpower to even come close to
excavating this most beautiful of the classic Mayan city-states. On
numerous occasions our guide would pick up broken pottery on the ground
that belonged to the ancient Maya. It's all over the place. Helen and I couldn't
imagine that ever happening in the United States. Archaeologists would have it
roped off for miles. Only 5% of the total Palenque area has been excavated.
Playa del Carmen
After Palenque, we made the long drive across
the Yucatanpeninsula to Playa Del Carmen.
This was my mom and Don's favorite spot. The city center had lots of great
restaurants, a long pedestrian street, cool bars and beach clubs, and tons of
topless Euros. It's also very central to other things such as Cancun, which is
about a half hour north, Tulum, which is about 45 minutes south, the Coba and
Chichen Itza ruins, many freshwater cenotes, and Cozumel. We had a fantastic
hotel for $60 a night and did some diving in Cozumel and snorkeling/caving in the
Gran Cenote outside of Tulum. The swine flu scare allowed us to have Playa Del
Carmen to ourselves. Playa delCarmen is also a great place to book a trip to Cuba if you're feeling adventurous.
Underwater caves, or "Cenotes"
Belize, a good place to leave,
and get back to the
safety of Mexico
We dropped the parents off in Cancun to fly home and continued on
to Belize. We parked the truck in Chetumal,
Mexicoat a small hotel and walked
across the border into Belize. This is a pretty scary border
town. A local Belizethug was harassing Helen,
offering her a "good" time and we caught one scary cab to Corozal to
take the ferry the next morning to San Pedro. Corazol was dirty and dilapidated.
We had a hard time finding any place good to eat. We caught the ferry over to
Ambergris Caye to San Pedro in the morning. It was a bumpy, noisy ride. San
Pedro was expensive and an ordinary Caribbean town. You could rent golf carts and see the sights
which was kind of cool. The diving to their famed "Blue Hole," which I
wanted to do was $200, which I thought was crazy expensive. The beaches reminded
me of the Florida
Keys--which is to say, there really
are none--and, if you find them, they are small. We had planned on spending up to
three days there, but, after we got the run-around from the dive shop, we booked
the first flight out. We found Belize to be way overpriced, the
people could give a crap, and there's definitely some kind of drug element going
on there. The best thing I could say about Belizeis that they speak English.
Out of our 5 weeks traveling through the coast and jungles of Mexico, this was the place we felt
We crossed the border back into Mexicoin the morning and began the
long trip home. We made the border town of Matamorosin two and a half days.
swine flu, no beheadings, and no trouble. What a great trip!
Joel Munoz is owner/operator of Buena Vida Adventures
that offer adventure trips throughout Mexico. He can be reached via his website at
or (760)672-2180 if you'd like to find out more about his motorhome adventures.